Do You Prefer Soft-Sells or Hard-Sells in Email Marketing?

Online Marketing Email Marketing Forums Do You Prefer Soft-Sells or Hard-Sells in Email Marketing?

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    My personal perspective on this is that I enjoy soft-sell emails far more than hard-sell as a marketer and as a consumer. However, I’m interested in hearing other opinions and perhaps stats if a marketer out there has success with hard-sell.


    A soft-sell in online marketing is where you write a helpful guide, tutorial, or some other content your users enjoy, and try to work in the product or service in an organic way. For instance, if you’re writing a tutorial on email marketing you might work in a statement like: “You should do your research on what the best email marketing platform is for your needs but I find Aweber to be perfect for my needs” and then you leave it at that.

    The email is closely related to your product, but you only mention the product as your recommendation rather than writing an entire email about it.


    If you soft-sell correctly in your email, readers who trust you as an expert are more likely to buy the product from your recommendation than through a hard-sell. If the foremost expert on email marketing tells me he uses a certain platform, I’ll take his word for it and go try to use that platform for my own email marketing.

    Soft-sells feel less like an advertisement. An in-article relevant endorsement is easy to either continue down the funnel or ignore. The reaction is not to drop-out of the email list.


    If done wrong, or you do not have a loyal readership or established authority on the topic, readers will take it as a shameless plug and it taints the rest of the content. The taint can be damaging, especially if email recipients start to think you’ll only send content if it means selling them something.

    You don’t offer enough space to truly feature the product and have a call to action, and in the case of affiliate products and services the reader might go search the product on Google rather than click through your link.

    It may be difficult to measure the success of an email campaign here, and therefore difficult to optimize. If the user reads the email but doesn’t buy the product, there is still value there because the user is building loyalty to you, which could lead to future sales. If your goal is purely sales on that one email, then you can optimize to that, but there are usually multiple variables in this strategy.


    The hard-sell in email marketing is where you dedicate an entire email featuring a product or service. You spend the email writing your opinion on the product, then offer pros and cons, and especially have a huge call-to-action button or statement in the email somewhere.

    Typically when using a hard-sell strategy you offer “incubation” emails with no products in them to warm up your readers, then hit them with a hard-sell. Then you repeat.


    Attention-catching, high conversion rates. If users see the email and think “I need/want of that kind of product” the high-quality hard-sell will capture their sale. The user knows exactly why the product fulfills that need, and know exactly what link or button to use to get there.

    Hard-sell email strategies are easy to measure. Your goals are set for each email. If it’s a freebie email you want open rates, positive feedback, or freebie downloads. If its a sales email, you optimize toward revenue per email. It allows you to test every aspect of the email to make sure you’re sending out the best one possible.


    There are a lot of people with an aversion to sales emails, and will unsubscribe from your list upon the first one you send to them. If you send too many, you’ll get less and less sales and more and more unsubscribes. Perhaps these users would have converted later on with a soft-sell, but just weren’t ready to purchase? Unfortunately you may never know because your hard-sell scared them off.

    Even if the subscriber doesn’t jump off the list, the hard-sell email could damage your reputation with them. It takes awhile to build up trust, but doesn’t take long to tear down trust. So if you’re sending them freebies, then ads, you might have to start from square 1 on customer loyalty.

    For some products, hard-sell ads won’t convert well at all compared to an expert recommendation during a tutorial or informational piece. Think about the difference between an endorsement for a financial product during a Dave Ramsey show, and a direct piece of mail from a life insurance company. I trust one of those far more than the other, and it is based on the level of authority.

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